Laurentian University's Aboriginal community is welcoming a move to mandate indigenous content for some students.

Students starting a Bachelor of Arts degree in the fall of 2017 will have to take courses related to Indigenous culture.

A better understanding of Indigenous realities

Sheila Cote-Meek, associate vice-president of Laurentian's academic and Indigenous programs, says it's the school's responsibility to graduate students with a thorough understanding of their world.

"It's not a lot to ask students to take one course in their degrees," says Cote-Meek, "so I'm hoping that at least when they leave Laurentian University, they'll have a better understanding of... the realities of Indigenous people in this land."

Laurentian University's Indigenous Learning Centre

Opening in 2017, Laurentian's Indigenous Learning Centre hopes to help students from First Nation communities transition into university life. (Casey Stranges)

Cote-Meek says there are already 100 courses at Laurentian that have 50 per cent Indigenous content. In the new degree requirements, students will be able to choose one full-year class or two half-year classes.

Broadening students' perspective

Natasha Daviau, third-year Bachelor of Arts student at Laurentian University, says that the mandate should also be extended to other programs, not just the arts.

"We're brought up basically only ever seeing a western, Eurocentric, white perspective, " says Daviau. "And with this [new course requirement] hopefully students can acknowledge the presence of other cultures in Canada."

Sandy Archibald, a second-year Business Administration student from Taykwa Tagamou First Nation near Cochrane, Ont., says the added emphasis on Indigenous culture will enable many graduates to be prepared for a changing work environment.

"These next generations of career minded people, they're going to be more aware of how they should move forward in working with Indigenous peoples in communities," Archibald says.

Laurentian is also opening an Indigenous learning centre this fall to help students from First Nation communities transition into university life.

with files from Olivia Stefanovich. Edited/packaged by Casey Stranges